After England reached their latest nadir; the goalless draw with Montenegro last month, two scapegoats were easily identified. One was, yet again, the manager, Fabio Capello, and the other Kevin Davies, who having made his international debut as a late substitute was deemed to personify all that was crude and antiquated about the national side. Davies, many decided then, should never be called up again.
Before Saturday's announcement of the squad that will face France on 17 November, however, the likelihood is that Capello will turn to the 33-year-old. Indeed, it would almost be perverse of the Italian not to do so given he was in attendance for Bolton Wanderers' stirring win here, one in which Davies was outstanding. In contrast, Peter Crouch, who Davies replaced at Wembley 27 days ago, was as humdrum as most of his Tottenham Hotspur team-mates.
"I have been in one squad and I'd like to be in another one," said Davies. "It isn't at the forefront of my mind. I want to concentrate on Bolton and if that's good enough for me to get the nod, then so be it. If it doesn't happen, I'll just get on with it."
Those who back or object to Davies's cause can each present statistics to strengthen their case. On one hand, the Bolton captain has scored four goals this season, the latest two of which came against Spurs, as well as assisting in three others, the same number as James Milner. But the critics can point out that no player has committed more fouls in the Premier League this season than Davies (38), while no forward has collected more yellow cards than him either – four. "The thing for me is that [Davies] is not a striker who has to score to contribute to a game," said Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager.
"He is not a natural finisher like Jimmy Greaves, but he knows his role and plays it effectively. I want between 10 and 15 goals from him this season and he is on his way to doing that. Today he was unplayable and with Mr Capello watching, another opportunity for England would not go amiss."
The national manager is likely to have been impressed with the precise manner with which Davies opened the scoring here, beating Heurelho Gomes, the Spurs goalkeeper, with a left-footed drive. His second, via a 76th‑minute penalty, also displayed panache, and in between came the hustling and harrying which marks Davies out as that most emblematic of English forwards.
"He's definitely a handful," said Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager. "He works his socks off, puts himself about, and when you've got someone like him in your team you've got a chance."
It helped Davies that Redknapp's men allowed themselves to be so easily overcome. Gone was the thrust and desire that saw them sweep Internazionale aside last week and back came the casual regard which has characterised the opening stages of many of Spurs' post-European league fixtures this season.
Redknapp claimed to be more concerned with his team's long injury list, which contains, among others, Rafael van der Vaart, Jermain Defoe, Michael Dawson and Ledley King. But, as he conceded, the visitors should still have done more to have kept Bolton at bay. Gretar Steinsson, for instance, was meant to have been preoccupied with marking Gareth Bale but instead found the room to make it 2-0 to Bolton, while Martin Petrov was left clear by William Gallas to get the hosts' fourth after stunning strikes from Alan Hutton and Roman Pavlyuchenko had given Spurs hope of snatching a draw.
These teams now find themselves level on 15 points but in distinctly contrasting moods. Spurs will be fretting ahead of tomorrow's visit of Sunderland, no one more so Tom Huddlestone, who could today be handed a suspension by the Football Association after he was caught on camera stamping on Johan Elmander during Saturday's match, while Bolton, and Davies in particular, are sure to be looking forward to the days ahead.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.